New Screening Process Aims To Reduce Alcohol, Drug Use

Published: September 23, 2006

HOUSTON – Early identification of alcohol and drug use in the clinical setting can reduce the negative effect on public health, say researchers at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) in Houston.

“Alcohol and drug use is a medical issue as opposed to a character or moral issue and there is a national movement to develop and adopt a ‘best practice’ approach to addressing it within the scope of routine patient care,” said Dr. Katherine McQueen, InSight medical director and assistant professor of medicine at BCM. “We hope that using the InSight simple screening and referral process will reduce repeat visits to the emergency room and outpatient clinics.”

As part of the InSight program’s model, medical professionals learn to accurately screen for alcohol, drugs and tobacco. The InSight screening practice uses a specialized model to establish screening, brief intervention, referral and treatment practices.

It helps health care providers diagnose and treat patients with a more complete view of their overall health, and it creates opportunities for patients to access objective, non-judgmental counsel on how alcohol and drugs affect their health.

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Health care providers and staff are provided badge cards after a short training session on the InSight program. The card displays three simple questions, which were developed to elicit honest and accurate responses from patients. Patients who screen positive receive counseling, a referral or treatment, hopefully reducing the likelihood of repeat visits to the emergency room.

More than 50,000 patients have been screened at Ben Taub General Hospital for alcohol and drug use through the program. Of the 8,500 who received intervention, 71 percent of alcohol drinkers reduced the number of days they drank alcohol, and 80 percent of drug users reported no usage in the past 30 days.

“Using this model at Ben Taub has proven effective. We hope to establish this in as many outpatient and emergency centers as possible,” McQueen said. “We hope to establish a system that will put an end to America’s top public health challenge.”

InSight is a collaborative program funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration through a cooperative agreement with The State of Texas Department of State Health Services. Collaborators include the Harris County Hospital District, the Council on Alcohol and Drugs Houston, Baylor College of Medicine, the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and the University of Texas at Austin Addiction Research Institute.

For more information on the project, visit the InSight web site at


Baylor College of Medicine Press Release

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